Dublin is a city that everyone raves about. Displaced locals get all misty-eyed about the pubs, the craic, the hilarious, friendly people they left behind.
Recently returned visitors wax lyrical on everything from the architecture to the seafood; tourist brochures conjure visions of a Celtic utopia, where historic, cobbled streets always lead to a pint of Guinness and a traditional sing-song, where adorable shops and top-class restaurants are to be found on every corner.
But, while much of that is true, don't be surprised if you still find yourself feeling a little disappointed by what you find. The fact of the matter is that nowhere, not even the mythical 'fair city' of Ireland, can live up to that much hype. Dublin is no theme park to oirishness, nor is it some quaint provincial backwater where every second person is bubbling over with blarney and bonhomie. It is a modern, hard-working, affluent centre of commerce and industry; it is a cultural capital; it is home to some of Europe's most accomplished artists and academics. It is a city that deserves to be taken seriously. And, for those who do, it is a richly rewarding, fascinating place.
Of course, as is true of any great city, Dublin can be pretty much whatever you want it to be. Visitors who want to spend their days on the trail of the past will find beautifully preserved mansions and castles, meticulously curated museums, magnificent churches and cathedrals, and streets, parks and docksides steeped in the events of yesteryear. But if you'd rather sample the very latest flavours from today's top chefs or dance through the night to the sound this week's white label releases, you can do that too. Simply put, Ireland's capital city is prepared to meet its visitors more than halfway, but only those who can be bothered to make an effort. Dublin does not wear its charms on its sleeve, you'll need to dig a bit deeper to find something more lasting than the tourist schtick and the themed pubs and restaurants that line the sightseeing trails.
So make a detour down that side street, spend a few hours trailing through the parks and gardens, take your time in the museums, talk to people in the pubs, watch a hurling match, ride the DART out of town to Howth, Dalkey and Malahide, catch a play, or just sit on the Liffey boardwalk and let it all pass you by.
Whatever you decide to do, you can rest assured that at least one of the clichés about this city really is true: Dublin genuinely does have something for everyone.